Because so many decisions are made emotionally, true financial planning has to work with those emotions for clients. Even as a male financial planner, it is often difficult to work with male clients during certain times.
Despite an avalanche of books on the subject of the differences between men and women, I’m reading Resilient Widowers by Alinde Moore and Dorothy Stratton. It argues that men and women adjust to the loss of their spouses differently, and I certainly cannot argue with that.
Apparently, women adjust more successfully. One reason is that they are more adroit at identifying their own emotions early and then managing them. Another reason is that wives traditionally outlive their husbands and are therefore not surprised when it happens. This makes their response more predictable. Their recovery is dependent primarily on their support network of friends & family, as well as the simple passage of time.
Men are more variable in their response to widowhood. This makes it more difficult for their friends & loved ones to help the new widower. Some widowers talk, some don’t — some cry, some don’t — some withdraw, some don’t — who knows?
Except for this: “the religious beliefs and denominational affiliations of the respondents (widowers) are discussed . . . in a study fitting into four categories: (a) those who professed no religious beliefs, (b) those who attended, or had attended, services but gave minimal thought or feeling to beliefs, (c) those who held religious beliefs that were simple, clear, and faith-based, (d) those who examined and reexamined spiritual issues philosophically and intellectually.
Those who seemed to gain the fastest help in the movement through grief were in the third group. They felt secure in the clear, simple faith that gave structure and meaning to suffering and loss. The men in the fourth group engaged in philosophical searching and struggle, which was to them probably invigorating and which no doubt intensified the understandings that they finally derived. However, the philosophical search had its more painful questioning moments at the very times when comfort would have been welcome.”
The lesson-learned for me is it is not possible to know how to help any particular widower at first. Give them time and then adjust your plans to help. Don’t try to “talk” until they “talk” first. Don’t try to encourage them to move on with life, until they bring it up. Don’t push, just follow their lead.